Back in 2010, a report came out from the UN’s Environmental Programme, outlining that approximately 150-200 species of plants and animals go extinct every 24 hours. Two years later, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) approximated that there were 41,415 species on its ‘Red List’ (up 16,118 species from the previous year), with 16,306 of them threatened with extinction.
Statistics like that should keep people up at night, and yet they do not, with many taking a blasé attitude toward the environment, the importance of protecting biodiversity, and conservation in general. Why is that?
Time to dive a little deeper to find out a little more!
What is conservation?
Put simply, it is the preservation and protection of the natural world as is, i.e. its inhabitants, its environment, etc. Conservation can be as easy or as difficult as you want it to be, whether you are looking at it from an individual or a government’s point of view.
Conservation efforts are obviously underway, with NGOs and government-run branches feeding images of sad animals and burning forests to the public. Whether it be pulling a specific animal back from the jaws of extinction, or stopping the indiscriminate destruction of natural land for the sake of economic progress, most, if not all, conservation efforts are important.
Here, we will talk a little about marine conservation!
Wait, why care about the oceans?
Well, they cover a majority of the Earth’s surface (approximately 71%), providing 99% of the Earth’s living space… and yet 80% of all pollution in the oceans and seas come from the land. ¾ of our major cities are based by the sea, and about one billion people rely on the ocean to provide their primary source of protein.
As the populations grow, the number of people relying on the oceans will grow, and the demand for seafood will be through the roof. Tuna, cod, swordfish, and marlin have declined by 90% over the past century, and the number of sharks caught (either bycatch or illegally caught and finned, 100 million/year) is abysmal. Killing these top predators is detrimental to the ocean and upsets the balance of the ecosystems.
Coral reefs are another point of interest, especially right here in the Philippines. There is a piece up on the Coral Triangle and this country’s strategic placement in its survival, do check it out! Basically, reefs hold a significant amount of life, and destructive fishing practices, combined with the effects of global warming, are killing these key ecosystems.
The human population will never stop growing, as will be the subsequent demand and pressure placed on the oceans. As the numbers grow, as does the importance of keeping the ocean healthy and alive. Genetic and biodiversity are also important to ensuring healthy stocks, not only for human consumption but also for the overall health of our oceans.
“Over 1 million known species of marine plants and animals call the ocean home”
Over 1 million known species of marine plants and animals call the ocean home (only about 10% of all marine species, about 9 million undiscovered). Other than for sustenance, surely you do not want to live in a world that you have to explain to the next generation why certain animals can only be seen in photographs and paintings but not in the wild?
How can you help?
As individuals, there are plenty of ways to help, and if you check out some of our other pieces you will get an idea!
Really, it is about the choices you make on a daily basis that will make a difference in the long run. Choosing a biodegradable or reusable bag over a plastic can be the difference in a sea turtle’s life, and choosing non-toxic sunscreens in order to protect coral reefs are but some of the ways you will affect the wider environment.
Volunteering is also another good way to help! Sure, it may not be for everybody, as your holiday may be already packed full. However, if you do have some downtime, volunteering for a beach cleanup or a reef replanting will make enough of a difference to the health of our oceans.
Can’t this wait?
Population growth will not stop, nor will global warming or the demand to indiscriminately drag life out of the oceans. Today, it is a billion people who rely on our oceans, and tomorrow it will increase. There is no time to waste, it is time to act.
Save our oceans!